No studio setup is complete without at least one pair of headphones. When you’re just starting out and building your first studio, chances are that your budget won’t allow you to go all out on your gear. If it will, all the power to you. However, a good number of beginners are restricted to budget equipment. Today we are going to show you our picks for the top 8 best studio headphones on the market under $100. These are good entry level models while some of them are easily among the best studio headphones in general. Lets get to it.
Top 8 Best Studio Headphones Under $100:
Sony’s headphones are among the trusted models in the community. Even if you go for the more affordable line. Sony MDR-V6 may not have all the cool bells and whistles, but it does offer solid core performance. When you’re just starting out, good sound and a comfortable headband are all you need. Everything on top of that is a bonus.
In terms of actual hardware, we would like to point out that Sony ships these with their famous CCAW voice coils. The drivers themselves have plenty of range and go as low 5Hz. The upper limit for the frequency range is 30kHz. It is safe to say that you have full creative freedom. Also, these come with a hard case.
Superlux is a brand that has managed to take the entire industry by surprise. When they first appeared, their headphones offered great performance, equal to some pretty costly models, at a fraction of the price. These days the situation is pretty much the same. Superlux HD-685 is their main studio model and it is quite awesome. Especially for the money.
On the outside, HD-685 sport a pretty minimalist design. The frame is well padded but doesn’t inspire much confidence. With that said, Superlux headphones were always focused on the hardware. This particular model comes pretty bass-heavy out of the factory. However, with some EQ magic these can become pretty flat. In other words, you can extract a lot of transparency.
Anyone even remotely familiar with headphones these days has heard of Audio Technica. They have done the exact same thing as Superlux did, only on a higher level. Audio Technica headphones are known for their impressive performance at more than reasonable prices. Audio Technica ATH-M40x is one of the entry models in the M series, and it is pretty awesome.
These come with a very simple yet robust frame. AT has used good padding just about everywhere you’d want it. The ear pads are also some of the best in this class of headphones. When it comes to performance, you’re looking at proprietary 45mm drivers capable of delivering some absurdly accurate and flat audio. Overall, a great set of headphones.
The next pair of headphones we would like to show you are definitely not like the others. Koss Pro-4AA are a very retro looking set of cans. This brand has been around for quite a while, which can also be said about this particular model. Defined by their robust frame and no nonsense design, Koss Pro-4AA are more than impressive.
Despite being a bit on the heavy side due to all of that extra material, these are pretty comfortable. The padding is plentiful and offers enough cushioning to reduce fatigue to a minimum. Performance wise, Pro-4AA pack a wide, accurate and fairly transparent sound. If you need an efficient and indestructible set of cans, Koss Pro-4AA are worth checking out.
Another brand that is well known in the budget segment is CAD Audio. Their designs are simple, efficient and often times offer great value for the money. That is pretty much how you could describe CAD Audio MH320. It is a simple set of cans optimized to get you the best performance possible at a price which won’t bankrupt you.
The frame is a standard design with plenty of reinforcements and sufficient padding. Materials may not be high end, but at least it gets the job done in terms of fatigue prevention. Hardware comes in form of two 45mm drivers with plenty of range. Sound is accurate, balanced and flat enough where you can do some serious work with it.
It is no secret that Status Audio doesn’t enjoy the same reputation that many other brands do. Even so, they make one of the best budget studio headphone models on the market. We are of course talking about the CB-1. These are closed back headphones which are mainly focused around performance. Their aesthetics are really nothing to write home about.
With that said, the frame offers plenty of padding and good comfort. These feature swivel mounted cups, making them great for both studio and live use. Hardware wise, you are looking at a good set of drivers which sound surprisingly flat. Overall, these headphones are among the few hidden gems of this market segment. That is why we’ve listed them.
There is nothing better than finding a set of headphones from a higher price range which are discounted for one reason or another. Ultrasone HFI-450 represents one such find and these are awesome. We are talking good quality set of fully adjustable studio headphones which offer more than just the basic stuff. On the contrary, these are anything but basic.
For starters, the cups are swivel mounted and allow you to adjust them any way you want. The frame itself is padded at the top, which is fine seeing how there is plenty of padding on the ear pads. Aside from decent drivers, Ultrasone HFI-450 come with S-Logic natural surround sound technology that improves performance in its own way.
Last but not least there are the Sony DRZX701IP. These headphones represent Sony’s entry level segment in a very positive light. Everything from their design to their performance is pretty well balanced. If you need something a bit more advanced that bare bones starter headphones, but something that is cheap, these are the way to go. Sony delivers once again.
The frame design is quite neutral and simple. The padding is a bit thin for our taste but it works quite alright all things considered. Hardware packed into these is good enough to give you an accurate representation of your mix. Although they aren’t really 100% flat, those two 50mm drivers have plenty of range. EQ can sort them out.
What Can You Expect From $100 Studio Headphones?
Studio headphones come in a variety of prices. You have the super cheap $50 models, while there are also headphones that will set you back at least $300. When you reach a certain level of skill and experience, you might go even higher than that. In our opinion, $100 headphones are a perfect place to start if you are on a budget. These will feature good hardware and good ergonomics. Sure, most of them are devoid of advanced features but you can still find interesting designs if you look hard enough. A few of the models we have selected for our list above show exactly what we man by this.
Lets quickly go over what you can expect to get from $100 headphones. Some of these features are a must have, while others are a good bonus.
Good Quality Drivers
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the drivers in those ear cups. Most of the designs in this segment will use either 40mm drivers or 45mm drivers with a few 50mm units sprinkled in different places. Driver size isn’t the important part. What you want are drivers capable of delivering a flat sound with plenty of accuracy. Most if not all of the headphones on our list offer that in abundance.
Comfort is every bit as important as performance. If you can’t stand to use the headphones for more than a few hours, they are no good for actual work. Look for headphones that have sufficient padding and good ergonomics. That was one of the primary criteria we’ve used when putting this list together.
Although not everyone thinks this is a big factor, we feel that detachable cables should a standard feature in every set of headphones on the market. Not only is it more convenient to be able to swap out cables depending on your intended use, but you won’t have to toss your headphones if your cable goes bad. Even though most of the headphones in this segment offer this feature, there are a few that don’t as you can tell by our list. Whether or not this is something you can work with is completely up to you. Our suggestion is to go with a detachable cable setup if possible. It just makes life that much simpler in the long run.
Affordable headphones are a great way to get yourself into music production. Spending around $100 will buy you good performance and good comfort. Are these going to be the best headphone you will ever own as a producer? Probably not, but chances are that you will have to develop your skills quite a bit before you start feeling limited by your $100 headphones. Models listed above are what we consider to be the best models you can get for that kind of money. No matter which one you go with, you won’t be disappointed.